Feds go after Peter Navarro’s secret email account in new lawsuit

A former Trump administration official, Peter Navarro, faces another uphill court battle after he repeatedly ignored federal demands to turn over official emails sent from a personal account because prosecutors would not guarantee him immunity, according to a federal lawsuit filed on Wednesday.

Navarro began his work in the Trump White House on the former president’s first day in office, and remained until the last day. He spent the first few months of 2017 as Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the National Board of Trade, then was appointed Director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy. In March 2020, Trump directed Navarro to coordinate the federal government’s use of the Defense Production Act to respond to the spread of COVID-19.

Under the Presidential Records Act (PRA), Navarro and all other officials in a similar situation are required to maintain all official communications, which are considered the property of the United States, Clarifies the 52-page lawsuit filed by the Ministry of Justice.

But Justice Department attorneys say Navarro did not respond to requests for material from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) at the end of Trump’s term last year, and that the Justice Department asked Navarro for contacts again at the beginning of the summer “in an effort to avoid litigation.”

“Discussions with Mr. Navarro’s attorney to secure the return of the presidential records were ultimately unsuccessful,” the lawsuit said. “Mr. Navarro refused to return any presidential records he had kept in the absence of granting immunity from the act of returning such documents.”

Accessed by phone shortly after the suit hit the public agenda, Navarro – Who pleaded not guilty in June To the Contempt of Congress for ignoring a subpoena from the House Committee of Inquiry Capitol riot – He said he didn’t know he was facing another legal battle until he was contacted by The Daily Beast.

“I have to look at the suit first,” Navarro said when asked for comment. “When was it saved?”

During Navarro’s time in the Trump administration, he “used at least one unofficial email account — one hosted by the unofficial service ProtonMail — to send and receive messages constituting presidential records,” according to the government lawsuit.

“After the end of the Trump administration, the archivist, through the NARA General Counsel, attempted to contact Mr. Navarro to secure presidential records that Mr. Navarro had not copied into his government email account,” the report continues. “Mr. Navarro did not respond to NARA’s calls.”

In June, a Navarro-appointed attorney contacted the Department of Justice to say an outside company would conduct a review of the documents to determine which ones fall under the PRA, the lawsuit said.

Over the next several weeks, Navarro’s attorney provided “periodic updates” about the endeavor.

“In order to assist and expedite the search, on July 18, 2022, NARA General Counsel provided Mr. Navarro’s attorney with a list of search terms,” ​​the lawsuit says. “NARA has asked Mr. Navarro to prioritize the return of any PRA records that meet these search conditions.”

Four days later, Navarro’s attorney told the Justice Department that they brought in more than 1,700 documents under priority search criteria, and of those, about 200 to 250 of them make up presidential records.

But on July 29, Navarro’s attorney sent a letter to the Department of Justice saying that Navarro was refusing to provide any of the emails without giving him complete immunity for anything inside.

“Mr. The lawsuit states that Navarro erroneously maintains presidential records owned by the United States, which are part of the permanent historical record of the previous administration.” Navarro’s unlawful retention of presidential records violates District of Columbia law, federal common law, and the PRA.”

Navarro’s use of private email, after his former boss won the presidency largely by criticizing Hillary Clinton for doing the same, first surfaced last fall, when The House of Representatives Selection of the Coronavirus Crisis Subcommittee said “It obtained copies of emails from individuals, other than Mr Navarro, as part of its investigation into the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.”

in (a) Sept. 14 letterSubcommittee Chairman James Clyburn (D-North Carolina) told Navarro that he and his colleagues are investigating “the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic and haphazard efforts to obtain critical supplies.”

“As detailed in information released by the Select Subcommittee on March 30, 2021, I have been closely involved in this poorly managed effort,” the letter says, referring to Navarro’s alleged use of “private, encrypted email accounts to run White House business.” .

The government wants the emails to get to the bottom of “disturbing questions about whether you and other Trump administration officials are trying to hide information about the federal response to the coronavirus crisis from public view,” the letter continued. “This behavior impedes the ability of the American people to understand the failures that contributed to the tragic loss of hundreds of thousands of American lives and may violate federal law requiring the preservation of presidential records.”

With the lawsuit filed on Wednesday, the federation will now attempt to loot what Navarro has so far failed to achieve. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that Navarro “unfairly retained United States property in the form of presidential records.”

It concluded that “under federal common law, any presidential records held by Mr. Navarro must be taken from him and delivered to the United States, and the United States must be awarded damages in an amount to be determined at trial.”

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